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efms Migration Report


January 2003

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EU fingerprint database for refugees becomes operational

Eurodac, the EU identification database for fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees that have entered the EU illegally has become operational; fingerprints of all refugees and asylum seekers who are older than 14 years are to be stored in a central database. All EU member states (with the exception of Denmark) as well as Norway and Iceland will contribute to the database. Its main aim is to establish the EU country through which refugees have first entered the EU in order to apply for asylum.

Eurodac can thus contribute to the implementation of the Dublin agreement, according to which a state is principally responsible for processing an asylum application if a refugee has entered the EU via its territory. However, the database is only to be used for asylum procedures, not for police investigations. In December 2002, EU interior ministers had reached a further agreement on sharing the responsibility for asylum applications. Furthermore, ministers hope that the database will put an end to the practice of refugees applying simultaneously for asylum in several different countries. According to estimates by the EU Commission, 10 to 20 percent of all asylum petitions are multiple applications, i.e. have been submitted in several EU member states.
dpa 14.01.03 // Press statement BMI 14.01.03 // FAZ 15.01.03 // NZZ 15.01.03


No end in sight for party debate on new migration law

The federal government cabinet has officially confirmed its intention to re-introduce the migration bill unchanged into the legislative process, even though the opposition Union parties have made it clear that they will only enter all-party talks if the red-green government coalition amends its proposals. Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has announced that he will introduce the bill, together with several directives for its implementation, in the next session of the Bundesrat (the upper house of the federal parliament) on 14th February.

Mr. Schily has expressed his willingness to make some minor concessions to opposition demands. He has also displayed cautious optimism that a compromise can be reached, welcoming an initiative by Saarland premier Peter Müller (CDU) to abandon opposition demands for sustaining the general ban on the employment of foreign labour. As a CDU party conference has adopted Mr. Müller"s proposals in its "Göttingen" declaration, Mr. Schily sees some room for compromise. Mr. Schily has also expressed the opinion that almost all opposition demands have already been incorporated into the government bill.

However, several leading Union politicians, above all Baden-Wurttemberg premier Erwin Teufel (CDU), Bavarian interior minister Günther Beckstein (CSU) as well as the Union party leader Angela Merkel (CDU) have emphasised their demand to sustain the general ban on the employment of foreign labour. Their view has also been supported by Wolfgang Bosbach (CDU), the deputy leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary party in the Bundestag (the lower house of the federal parliament), who has reiterated his intention to introduce all 91 proposals of his parliamentary party for amending the government migration bill in all-party talks.

Meanwhile, the opposition FDP party has announced that it will present its own migration bill, which could then form the basis for a compromise between the government and the opposition, and eventually lead to an all-party bill in the Bundesrat. On the whole, the FDP proposals follow the government line, but call for changes in integration and labour migration policy. For example, the FDP is in favour of obligatory integration courses for new immigrants as well as for some other groups of non-Germans, who have been living in Germany for a longer period of time. In addition, the party calls for an "annual migration quota" for foreign labour, which is to be set co-operatively by the federal government and the Bundesrat according to current labour market demands.

Whereas CDU/CSU representatives have rejected the FDP proposals immediately, responses by the red-green government coalition have varied: Marieluise Beck (Greens), the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, has rejected the Liberals" proposal to sanction migrants if they refuse to participate in integration courses. Moreover, Mrs. Beck has criticised plans for an annual labour migration quota as "too bureaucratic and inflexible". Mr. Schily, the Federal Interior Minister, on the other hand, has generally welcomed the FDP initiative, stating that he is grateful to all initiatives which could breathe some new life into the gridlocked migration debate.
taz 07.01.03 // dpa 09.01.03 // SZ 09.01.03 // SZ 10.01.03 // taz 10.01.03 // taz 11.01.03 // SZ 13.01.03 // press statement BMI 15.01.03 // Welt 15.01.03 // FAZ 16.01.03 // FR 16.01.03 // SZ 16.01.03 // SZ 17.01.03 // dpa 19.01.03


Court specifies language requirements for Aussiedler and sparks migration debate

The State Administrative Court of Baden-Wurttemberg has rejected an appeal by a 36-year-old ethnic German from Russia whose application for the legal status of Aussiedler (ethnic German immigrant) had been rejected by local authorities in Calw after he had entered Germany. Authorities in Calw had rejected his petition on account of his insufficient German language skills. The court"s ruling has thus specified criteria "for sufficient language skills" that Aussiedler have to fulfil on entering Germany since 1996. In its decision, the court has stated that applicants are not required to be proficient in grammar, but must be able to have an every-day conversation in German. Consequently, it is not sufficient if applicants only have a passive understanding of the German language or are just able to speak a few words (Ref: S 6 1066/01).

Dieter Wiefelspütz (SPD), interior-policy spokesman of the SPD parliamentary party, has welcomed the court ruling, pointing out that the government"s migration bill, which had been declared void by the Federal Constitutional Court for formal reasons, includes an amendment that would require both the applicant (i.e. ethnic Germans who apply for "Aussiedler" status according to Art.116 Basic Law) and accompanying family members to provide proof of their sufficient language skills before entering Germany. In a similar vein, Jochen Welt (SPD), the Federal Government Commissioner for Ethnic Germans and National Minorities, has drawn attention to the fact that insufficient language skills of accompanying family members often lead to integration problems, social isolation and public rejection; in 2002, only 22% of inflows of Aussiedler were ethnic German immigrants, the remaining 78% being made up of accompanying family members.

Heiner Bartling (SPD), Interior Minister of Lower Saxony, has also welcomed the court"s decision, as he has repeatedly called for further restrictions on inflows of Aussielder. Together with interior ministers of other states with an SPD-led government, Mr. Bartling has argued that it is necessary to impose more stringent language requirements; in addition, Aussiedler from the territories of the former Soviet Union should also be required to provide proof that they have been "individually discriminated against because of their German ethnicity". The latter requirement was imposed on Aussiedler from other Eastern-European states already in 1993.

Mr. Bartling"s demands, which are to be discussed in all-party talks on the migration bill, have been rejected by the opposition. The federal government has also expressed reservations, referring to regulations in the government"s migration bill that would impose more stringent language requirements.
FAZ 03.01.03 // SZ 03.01.03 // Welt 03.01.03 // FR 04.10.03 // SZ 04.01.03 // Welt 10.01.03


Case of church asylum sparks debate in Brandenburg

A case where police officers forcefully entered church buildings in the Brandenburg community of Schwante in order to detain a Vietnamese national and his five-year-old son who were to be expelled from Germany has sparked a general debate on "church asylum", i.e. cases where churches protect non-German residents against deportation. Wolfgang Humber, bishop of the protestant community in Berlin-Brandenburg has held talks with Wolfgang Platzeck (SPD), the Brandenburg premier, and his deputy, interior minister Jörg Schönbohm (CDU), in order to find a general solution to the questions how to handle these cases. The parties have reached an agreement to the effect that the state government will in future generally, in Mr. Platzeck"s words, "respect" church asylum. At the same time, bishop Huber has conceded that the church is not entitled to create an "unlegislated area".

In the meantime, the Administrative Court in Potsdam has upheld an urgent appeal by the 48-year-old Vietnamese national who had sparked the debate. The court has ruled that the man is protected against deportation as, due to his activities in two organisations of Vietnamese dissidents in exile, it cannot be ruled out that he would be in serious danger if he were forced to return to Vietnam.
FAZ 08.01.03 // taz 10.01.03 // FR 15.01.03 // dpa 29.01.03


Labour court rules: Muslim nursery school teacher is entitled to wear headscarf at work

The Dortmund Labour Court has upheld an appeal by a 28-year old Turkish national who had been dismissed by her employer for wearing a headscarf during work at a municipal nursery school. Whereas the woman has referred to her constitutional right of religious freedom, her employer has argued that public-service workers have to observe the principle of neutrality. The court has ruled that the dismissal had been in violation of the constitutional right to practise one"s religion unimpededly; moreover, the court has raised the general question if the principle of neutrality does apply to public-sector employees at all (as opposed to public servants). The court has also stated that the wearing of a headscarf at work could only have been banned if the nursery-school teacher had tried to proselytise children in her care (Ref: 6 Ca 5736/02)
SZ 17.01.03


Federal Interior Ministry bans further extremist Islamic organisation

Following the ban of the so-called "caliph-state" and the Al-Aqsa organisation, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has now also banned the extremist Islamic organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir (Arabic for "liberation party"). The ministry has stated that the ban is justified as the organisation advocates the destruction of Israel and has called for the killing of Jews; its propaganda incites violence in pursuing its political goals and thus violates the principle of international peaceful understanding. Since the 1990s, the organisation, which had already been banned in most Arabic countries, has been particularly active in European countries and, above all, universities.

The legal basis for the ban has been created by German anti-terrorism legislation which has deleted the so-called "religious privilege" from the Law on Associations.
Press statement BMI 15.01.03 // FR 16.01.03


Asylum statistics

In January 2003, a total of 6,124 persons have submitted petitions for political asylum in Germany, a decrease of 21.1% (1,638 persons) over January 2002, and of 30,5% (1,430 persons) over December 2002. In a statement, the Federal Interior Ministry has explained the increase compared to December by pointing out that "there have always been fewer applications in December compared to other months of the year". The main countries of origin continue to be Iraq (1,022), Turkey (737), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (483), the Russian Federation (400) and Iran (271). The most striking development has been that asylum applications by Iraqi nationals have rocketed by 65.1%, which is significantly above average.

The Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has decided the cases of 8,349 persons in November. 163 applicants (2.0%) have been recognised as entitled to political asylum. An additional 3.3% (279 persons) have been recognised as protected against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Aliens Act ("semi-asylum status"). The applications of 5,708 persons (68.0%) have been rejected (68.4%).
Press statement BMI 13.02.03


January 2003

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